Mark Meadows is afraid of ghosts

I was told I had to surrender this photo of my late son to be allowed into Mark Meadows’ town hall. I’m thinking he’s afraid of ghosts. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

 

I went to the Mark Meadows town hall the other night, but I wasn’t permitted in.

They wanted to confiscate the photo of my son that I always take to these things. I had it with me at his town hall two years ago. I had it with me at the Patrick McHenry and Robert Pittenger town halls as well. I carried it with me in Raleigh and Washington. I had it with me when I met with Heath Shuler and when I was blocked from speaking to now-Sen. Thom Tillis, who had me arrested rather than speak to me.

I have plenty of copies of the photo, but I will not surrender any of them to people who want to deny the truth about my son’s death.

Mark Meadows leads the Congressional “Freedom” Caucus, which rejected the first House version of Trumpcare because it didn’t take enough away from people.

Meadows is wealthy beyond my imagination. He can afford to buy his insurance and pay the co-pays. Hell, he can afford to get whatever care he needs without insurance.

But instead of understanding his privilege, he tries to deny that care to people who aren’t wealthy and then paint them as lazy bums.

Mark Meadows calls himself “pro-life” and “Christian,” but his behavior doesn’t line up with either one. To be pro-life, one must support life even after it exits the birth canal. To be Christian, one must offer aid without asking whether the recipient deserves it. Christ taught us that by example and then in Matthew 25, Christ tells us what will happen if we refuse to care for those least able to care for themselves, what he called, “the least of these.”

Mark Meadows has proven to be a tough political opponent, partly because of the huge sums of money he commands, and partly because the people of this district tend to believe his lies about why we can’t have universal access to health care or a living wage as minimum wage.

This is when our party has to come together. We have to remove him from office, along with others who share his selfish, destructive and immoral policies.

We have a candidate, Phillip Price, who seems to hold some pretty great ideas. He’s new to politics as are many candidates this year, including a contender against Patrick McHenry named Kenneth Queen. I’ll devote an entire post to him tomorrow.

 

Representing, unlike my representative, and refusing to back down

Mark Meadows exemplifies everything that’s wrong with America right now.

 

I wasn’t going to go to the Mark Meadows town hall tonight.

There’s nothing he can say to convince me he’s right, and he won’t let me speak to him.

At the last town hall I went to, questions had to be written out, and we were told they would be asked in the order they were submitted. I was the second person through the door and I submitted the second question. But mine was not among the eight questions asked.

I approached Meadows afterward to ask why that had happened, but he took one look at me when I stuck out my hand to introduce myself, said, “Oh, I know who you are,” and turned his back to me.

This man is supposed to be representing the people of Western North Carolina, but he refuses to speak to anyone who might disagree with his cruel and inhumane policies.

The first attempt to pass Trumpcare in the House of Representatives wasn’t severe enough for Meadows and his “Freedom Caucus.” It didn’t take enough away from people. It still saved a few lives, after all. It had to be made more draconian before he and his sleazy band of thugs would vote for it.

I have no use for this man, but I have decided I need to show up with my son’s picture and pray that perhaps I can move him toward compassion. At least I can be there to show that not all the voters in this district are anti-life.

This fight takes its toll. I am stressed and emotional from the fight against Trumpcare. I have spent hours and hours writing to Meadows and my senators (Burr and Tillis), only to have them ignore me or send me form letters filled with lies about the Affordable Care Act.

Now I have fellow Democrats accusing me of being a “purist” and suggesting I should leave the party because I don’t want to vote for anyone who doesn’t support universal access to quality health care. Let your kid die and then tell me it isn’t imperative that we fix this now.

I’ve had little rest lately, as the radicals on the political right try to take away what little progress we have made in access to care. I was arrested in Raleigh in May because I was trying to talk to the NC Senate leader. I was arrested in Washington in July for trying to disrupt a vote to take away health care from up to 33 million people.

I’m putting my body on the line and being vilified as a “purist” for my belief that we need access to care for every human being and speaking the truth that we need candidates who will work for us on this.

I want a living wage for minimum wage. I want to see it set at $18 an hour and tied to inflation so people don’t have to work three jobs to pay their bills. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, you need that money NOW, not in five years. Only people with unacknowledged privilege think it can wait.

The establishment Democrats are exactly what mainstream Republicans were before it was taken over by right-wing radicals. I had differences with them, but could at least respect them. Since 1980, the radicals have managed to drag the entire conversation so far to the right that what once were mainstream Democratic ideals are now considered radical.

A living wage as minimum wage? Socialist! Health care for everyone? Communist!

If you think I’m wrong, just read the 1976 Democratic Platform: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29606.

I’ve been told I’m too divisive and I should leave the Democratic Party and go Green, which I would do if there was a chance in hell they could win against all the big money now flooding the Dems’ corporatist candidates.

So as far as being “purist” and “elitist” goes, screw that. I’m the one staying with the party and trying to make a difference.

I voted for Hillary Clinton even though she said she wouldn’t work on single-payer and she wasn’t for a big increase in the minimum wage all at once. Hoe does that make me a “purist” who should be purged from the party?

So, if you’re in agreement with Mark Meadows and think we don’t need universal access to care or a living wage for people who work 40 or more hours a week, then join his party because you aren’t a Democrat.

Democrats make room for disagreement. Democrats are able to talk things out and compromise.

If you want people who will slavishly follow the party line, join the party of Mark Meadows. They love sheep.

 

 

 

 

It’s time to get serious about opposing the oligarchs

We need a strong, progressive candidate who will illustrate the real difference between the parties.

 

Matt Coffay has dropped out of the race for the 11th District Congressional seat in North Carolina.

Now what?

There is another candidate named Phillip Price and I have e-mailed him to request a meeting. I want to know where he stands because I’m not ready to vote for another moderate who won’t work for my interests.

I don’t want someone who’s happy with the Affordable Care Act; I want someone who will push for a single-payer system.

I want someone who will push to regulate Big Pharma and rein in the drug companies’ abuses.

I want someone who will fight to raise the minimum wage to $18. Three years ago, $15 would have been adequate, but time marches on, as does inflation. $18 now, not in five years.

I want someone who will work for universal voter registration. Everyone in, no one out, just like I want in health care.

I want someone who will understand the dire risk of global warming and who will demand action immediately, in spite of what Big Oil wants. I want to see solar panels and wind turbines popping up in the landscape like weeds in my garden.

I’m looking for a candidate who will work on re-funding education and strengthening schools, colleges and universities.

I want someone who will actually reduce spending on the war machine.

I want to see someone who’s unashamed to support Planned Parenthood.

I want someone who’ll work to stop the militarization of our local police forces.

I’m tired of moderates who aren’t willing to challenge the corporate overlords. Nothing will change until we the people make those changes. and moderates won’t work with us.

I voted for Hillary Clinton, not because I agreed with her on everything, but to try and keep the Orange One out of the White House. She is qualified to be president, but she is in bed with the big corporations.

She doesn’t get Black Lives Matter. The issue of institutional racism is somehow out of her grasp.

She doesn’t get the need for an immediate hike in the minimum wage to make it a living wage. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, you need that raise now. It’s only about 40 percent of what’s needed to live in any city in the United States and less than that in many places. If you’re in business, you don’t get to enrich yourself on the backs of others. If you can’t pay a fair wage, you shouldn’t be in business.

She wasn’t for an immediate move to single-payer because the insurance overlords don’t want it and they would have withdrawn support.

It was, in part, purists who put this clown in the White House because they wouldn’t vote for someone who disagreed with any of their stands. I get that and I’m not a purist.

I do, however, want a candidate I can back wholeheartedly. I want a true progressive because more and more Americans are beginning to understand the need for progressive policies.

So, can we at least try to recruit a progressive without the Democratic Party getting its panties in a bunch?

Mark Meadows is an oligarch. He has no idea how we struggle with bills or how terrified we are of getting sick in one of the worst health care systems in the world. He cares only about himself and his little circle of the pampered and privileged.

We need someone strong to run against that. We need to be able to show people there is a very real difference between the parties because if there isn’t, we truly are lost as a nation.

 

 

 

Thank you to the GOP members who voted no

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no. John McCain joined them. Photo by Getty Images.

 

John McCain had a choice. He could play politics and be the darling of the right wing, or he could do the right thing.

The future of the Affordable Care Act lay in his hands.

Thing is, this likely was to be his last hurrah.

Diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, he likely has little time left to him. I was afraid the irony might be lost on him — a politician who had fought against the ACA, getting the best medical care available to anyone and able to allow tens of millions of people to keep, or lose, lifesaving access to health care.

Would be make the connection? Would he see the importance of access to care for everyone, or would he continue to play politics with people’s lives?

I was truly afraid he would stand on the wrong side of history.

He chose to be on the moral side of history.

But the beautiful story in all of this is the two Republican women who stood steadfast in the face of derision and threats.

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska never wavered in their opposition to the theft of access to care for tens of millions of Americans.

When Murkowski was threatened with official punishment in the form of retaliatory action against her constituents, she shut down her committee’s hearings on appointments to the Department of the Interior, which was the source of the threats against her.

Sen. Capito caved. I don’t know what the enticement — or the threat — was that changed her vote, but Collins and Murkowski stood firm.

I took some heat this morning because I mentioned McCain before the women in a Facebook post. I call bullshit on that.

McCain walked the farthest in his position. Maybe it was because he wants to see the whole law repealed; maybe it was because the stark reality of his own mortality has humbled him. Whatever the reason, he has saved access to health care for tens of millions of Americans.

We knew we had the votes of Murkowski and Collins; McCain’s was the miracle vote.

And while we’re talking about heroes, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also has cancer — stage 4 kidney cancer. She also traveled to Washington to vote, making her every bit as heroic as McCain. The media haven’t picked up on it they way they did McCain, so we all need to thank her for her heroic effort.

I have written thank-you notes to all four senators.

But we have won just one battle. The occupant of the White House will not let this go. He has promised to attack it and kill it with a thousand cuts. We are not out of the woods.

So, let’s take some time to breathe this morning, but tomorrow we have to resume the fight. This is not over until every human being in the United States has full access to health care.

 

I can’t sit down

 

Marching to the Capitol with a cardboard “coffin” on Wednesday morning. I was arrested for chanting, “Kill the bill!” Photo by Religion News

 

I have been arrested again, this time for trying to speak truth to US senators.

On Tuesday, 32 of us went into the Senate gallery to watch the vote on opening “debate” on a bill that could rob 50 million Americans of access to health care by 2026.

I was hauled out of the gallery before the action began because someone noticed I had a 5×7 photo of my late son. I just thought he might like to see the circus. Honestly, I wanted to hold him up for John McCain and Mitch McConnell to see.

I spoke before we marched to the Capitol from a church a quarter mile away, begging senators to be truly pro-life and drop their effort to murder tens of thousands of Americans each year by taking away their access to health care. A portion of my remarks was picked up by Now This and the video is circulating on Facebook. I’ll be honest, I’m a little tickled by that. The more people who know about my son, the better. We have to put the faces of real people suffering the real consequences of these people’s actions.

I know some people just stumbled over the word, “murder.”  It seems so harsh. But there is no other word to describe an action that you know will result in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

So, we marched, then we stood in line for two hours waiting to get into the gallery. I got a little star struck watching Al Franken walk in. I had listened to a podcast of him being interviewed by Larry Wilmore on my drive up to Washington. He’s so smart and so funny. He’s shorter than I thought. I looked over at Mitch McConnell and remarked to the woman next to me that I think he looks even more turtle-like in person.

But before John McCain walked in and voted to open “debate” on a bill that no one has seen, I was hauled out of the gallery for having a photo of my late son. That’s right, I’m a dangerous subversive because I carried a photo.

As I was speaking to a cop, who was taking down my personal information, I heard the chanting start. Now, I don’t know if I was about to be arrested or simply banned from seeing the Senate at “work,” but I looked at the officer and took a deep breath.

The officer, whose name is Michael, and who is the same age my son was when he got sick, said, “Don’t do it.”

“I have to, ” I said. I turned my back to him and started chanting. Then with him behind me, I walked over to the line of people being taken out of the gallery.

It was a little like “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” where Spock, who is not charged with a crime, walks up to stand with Kirk and the others, saying, “I stand with my shipmates.”  I could almost hear my son laughing as that thought entered my head.

I kept chanting as Officer Michael caught up with me and held my elbow. They cuffed us behind our backs as we waited for the elevator, and my nose started itching immediately.

They took us to the building’s garage, where we were searched. As they took our jewelry, wallets, even the tissues I had tucked into my pocket, we sang freedom songs and hymns.

We sang in the paddy wagon, and we sang in the converted garage they had set up to process us. We sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “Hold On,” “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Not be Moved.” A rabbi among us taught us a Hebrew song.

The officers were all respectful and kind. Several of them even joked with us. One admitted quietly to me that he respected and admired us. Another whispered to me she was honored to be in our presence. They had several coolers filled with cold water and a half dozen big floor fans to keep the air moving in the garage to keep us comfortable. They took off the cuffs and cuffed everyone in front, which is a whole lot more comfortable. We sat on cafeteria chairs and chatted.

There were a few from the North Carolina Moral Monday Movement, including Rev. Rob Stephens and Jennifer “Jeff” Ginsburg, a hospice nurse who was arrested with me in Raleigh on May 30. Jeff, by the way, runs a small box turtle rescue operation, which makes her an expert on turtles. She agreed that McConnell is an evil turtle.

Others, including Dr. Margaret Flowers and Rev. Traci Blackmon, walked with us and sat with us, but didn’t participate in the action because of their previous arrests.

We were supposed to be given a $50 fine and released, but we were charged with disrupting the Senate, which is a slightly more serious charge and means we all have to go back for a court date.

If they think that intimidates me, they should think again. I’m fighting for the lives of every American. I’m fighting for health care as a human right. This fight is way bigger than one bereaved old woman.

After we were released, we were all hungry enough to be grateful for the cold pizza that was waiting for us across the street from where we were being held.

We called an Uber car to take us back to the church for the belongings we left there. The driver was a Muslim man from Afghanistan, who, when he found out who we were, refused to accept payment from us.

“I don’t take money from heroes,” he said.

After I gathered my things and started walking to the Metro station near the Capitol, I saw Sen. Lindsay Graham in the crosswalk. I approached and stuck out my hand.

“Senator Graham,” I said, “I’m from North Carolina.”

“Then we’re neighbors,” he said, smiling.

“I know you’re in a hurry, but I need to speak to you for just a moment.” I pulled out my photo of Mike. “This is my son who died from lack of access to health care. He was a good man, a hard worker, a community volunteer and the light of my life.”

He looked at the photo, somewhat shocked at being accosted, I think.

“”Please, please, sir, I beg you to think about the lives that will be lost, the families who will grieve, before you vote on any health care bill.”

“I will,” he said as he handed the photo back to me.

He voted against the first bill that night. I like to think he saw Mike in his head, but then he voted yes on the second bill.

I am exhausted. I am worried about my own health — I have a bunch of kidney stones — but I have access to decent care and I have to fight for those who do not.

I slept well last night, knowing I have done the right thing and that I will continue to fight these murderers. As long as my heart beats, I will continue this fight. This isn’t for or about me. This is about being truly pro-life. This is about loving my neighbor.

I’m not a hero, I’m just a person following my conscience and my faith. I know how it feels to lose a child, and I live in fear of losing my only surviving son, of outliving both of my children because of the greed of a few powerful men. This is what moves me to action.

I am standing for the lives of my fellow human beings.

I can’t sit down.

 

 

The irony of McCain’s cancer diagnosis

Photo by NBC News.

Not that many people get this, but is is more than a little ironic that John McCain’s brain tumor postponed the vote to take away access to health care for millions of Americans.

McCain was a sure “yes” vote on the “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act that Sen. Mitch McConnell was pushing. I don’t know that this diagnosis will change McCain’s mind on that vote.

Still, I would not wish this on him and I am grateful that he has access to the care he will need if he is to beat this.

My son never had that chance.

I’m being criticized today for saying this because McCain is a mean-spirited man who has fallen in willingly with thugs and thieves. He was set to help take away access to health care for 23 million Americans.

That is the aiding and abetting of murder.

To me, that doesn’t matter right now because when I say everyone deserves access to quality health care, I mean exactly that.

No one deserves to die the way my son did. No one. Period.

It would be the height of hypocrisy to stand up in public and say no one deserves to die the way my son did and then turn around and wish it on someone else, even if that someone is not a good person.

Conservatives say they don’t want universal health care because some people just want a handout.

That’s bullshit.

In my 30 years as a reporter covering social justice issues and in my nine years of health care advocacy work, I have not met anyone who just wants a handout.

My son wanted health care. He worked hard and he went to school and he was a community volunteer who gave selflessly of himself to help others.

And don’t tell me, “OK, your son deserved to live, but some people are lazy …” Who the hell are you to decide who deserves to live? Where do you get off condemning someone to die because you deem them too lazy, or too mean?

No one deserves to go without access to health care. No one. Period, end of discussion.

I don’t know John McCain personally, and I am not going to judge him other than to say he has done and said some incredibly mean-spirited things. Still, he does deserve health care.

I am grateful that his family doesn’t have to watch him die from medical neglect. Having watched my son die from lack of access to care, I am steadfast in my desire to see no one else die that way.

 

 

 

 

They’re not done trying to steal our health care

Do you really think this man and his partners in crime are going to give up and stop trying to take away our access to health care?

 

Everyone seems in a celebratory mood this morning.

Stop it.

Stop it now.

Mitch McConnell announced the latest version of Trumpcare is dead, and that saves Medicaid — for now.

But he also announced he will try a “clean repeal,” meaning the ACA would go away in two years. It would leave up to 33 million people without insurance. Thirty-three million. That’s how many people have gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

When my son died on April 1, 2008, I started fighting for reform. In 2009, I left my job as a newspaper reporter — I volunteered to be laid off — so I could devote all my time to the effort.

I wasn’t thrilled with the Affordable Care Act, but it was a step in the right direction. It would have forced insurance companies to cover my son and he likely would still be alive — that is, if it had passed in 2005 instead of 2010.

As it is, my friend, Kelly, who worked with me in the fight to pass the ACA, will die if this is repealed. Kelly has lived with cancer for years, and if the ACA goes away, she will lose her insurance and her access to the care she needs. She will die.

Middle-aged people with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression and any number of other illnesses, will be left to die. Cancers that are treatable when diagnosed early will be diagnosed too late to save people’s lives — exactly what happened to my son.

Think about it: if you make $35,000 a year and you have a policy with a $10,000 deductible and high co-pays, you won’t be able to afford care unless you sell your house — if you own a house and can sell it in time to save your life. That’s what the Senate version of “replace” had in it, a two-tiered insurance system that would give people with a lot of money good insurance while the rest of us would be able to get only junk plans.

Before the ACA, some 45,000 Americans died every year from lack of access to care. That’s one every 12 minutes.

Under the ACA, an estimated 33 million more Americans are covered than were before. Most of the 12 to 15 million without coverage now are low-income people in states that have so far refused to expand Medicaid. That’s also where most of the approximately 20,000 who die every year from lack of coverage live.

So, we’re saving 25,000 lives every year with the ACA, but the powers in Washington want it repealed because — well, why?

The ACA is not failing. Insurance companies are not going broke. In fact, a federal court has found that United Health Care was not losing the money it claimed it was losing when it pulled out of the ACA marketplaces.

What’s happening is that a group of ultra-wealthy, ultra-conservative thugs want more money. They want more tax breaks for the rich. They want less regulation. And they don’t give a damn about you and me. They don’t care about the opioid addiction epidemic — in fact, they deliberately caused it to make money.

If you don’t remember, Purdue Pharmaceuticals began marketing synthetic opiates in about 1996. They told doctors and others that this new synthetic wasn’t addictive, although they knew damn well it is. Before long, doctors were prescribing it for things as simple as a tooth extraction — things where an over-the-counter painkiller would do.

They now ship enough painkillers into West Virginia alone to kill everyone in the state.

And you think these murderers are going to give up now because they can’t get a “replacement” through for the ACA?

Think again.

Their disdain for us runs so deep that they won’t give up. Tax cuts are far more important to them than our lives. They want that money.

They’re talking about passing a repeal that would take effect in two years — after the next election so we we can be distracted easily, since we’ll still have our insurance at election time. They can keep promising a replacement that they have no intention of passing.

Please remember that they’ve had seven years to come up with a replacement and they showed us already that they have nothing.

If they genuinely cared a whit for us, they would have had some idea how to do this. But the ACA was a conservative idea, generated by a conservative think tank (The Heritage Foundation) and implemented by a conservative governor (Mitt Romney) in a single state. The Democrats pushed it because they thought conservatives might be willing to go with their own idea.

They weren’t.

Obama offered a huge olive branch with the ACA, and he put icing on the cake by taking single-payer off the table at the outset. Had we started discussions there, we might have been able to get a public option and give insurance companies some competition.

But we started negotiations in the center and landed right of center, and they still want to get rid of it.

That alone should tell you that they will stop at nothing to take away our health care. If it is at all possible, they will do it. And they won’t stop trying.

Don’t let up now. Don’t stop calling, writing, e-mailing, faxing … Our lives depend on it.

 

 

 

Banned from the building

A number of us who were arrested on May 30 were in court for the hearing on Wednesday.

 

I have been banned from the building where North Carolina legislators work.

I am told I have no right to address my legislators, even though the North Carolina Constitution guarantees me that right.

I am told I can’t go back until the second-degree, misdemeanor trespass charge against me has been resolved.

But the last time I was arrested for the same charge, I was never tried. The charges just sat there, unaddressed by the court, for two years before they were finally dismissed for failure to prosecute.

This is what they want to do: Keep those of us who disagree with the radical and cruel turn our state has taken in the last six years out of their way and silent.

I was arrested on May 30 for trying to go into the (public) office of NC Senate leader Phil Berger. Two guards blocked the door and told me it was private property. It is not. They told me I have no right to go in and wait to speak to him. I did and I do. They shushed me. If you know me, you know I will not be shushed.

Were we disruptive? After we were denied access, we did begin to chant, sing and pray. We were there to talk about health care, not to be disruptive and certainly not to be arrested, although we knew that was a distinct possibility.

What I really wanted was the chance to speak to Sen. Berger. I have tried again and again, but he refuses to see me. Instead he has had me arrested twice (then-Speaker, now US Senator, Thom Tillis had me arrested the first time).

My release form tells me I am to stay out of the General Assembly Building “until authorized to return.” It says nothing about who will authorize or when. In essence, it bans me for life, along with the 31 others who were arrested with me.

We challenged that order in court. Our hearing was Wednesday and I was appalled at the behavior of the judge who heard the case. He repeatedly interrupted our attorney with disrespectful comments and inane questions, once comparing the order to an order to keep disruptive people off the property of a Sheetz gas station.

Our attorney, Geeta Kapur, had to remind him that people have no constitutional right to speak to the employees of a gas station, but we do have the express right to address our legislators at the place where we pay them to be — in the building we paid to build and continue to pay to maintain.

After repeated interruptions as our attorney tried to explain our argument, she finally said, “Your honor, if you would stop interrupting me, I would be happy to answer the question.”

It was obvious he agreed with the order, which could have come from the General Assembly Police or the legislative leadership — neither of whom want to be bothered with anyone critical of their radical policies. It was also obvious the judge had no respect for us or our attorney. He was very much up front about that, and very obviously not impartial.

He amended the order to say we have to stay out until charges are dealt with, but that could mean two years if they do the same thing they did in 2015. Some of us can go into the building if we are invited for a specific meeting with a specific legislator. But those of us who have previous second-degree trespass arrests can’t — even though my previous two charges were dismissed. That means I continue to be punished for a crime for which I was not found guilty.

We are not willing to go quietly, though, and Rev. William Barber has promised we will appeal. In 2013, the order to keep out of the building was overturned quickly, and I imagine this one will be overturned on appeal.

The thing is, all of you should worry about this. It is not just an order to silence 31 people. If  it stands, this is an infringement on our rights as citizens, on our rights to assemble and speak freely, on our right to instruct our lawmakers. The radicals in that building want to silence us and to do their work in secret.

The US Supreme Court has found their voting restrictions illegal. The US Supreme Court has found their gerrymandered districts illegal. Both decisions were unanimous.

In other words, these people who are dismantling our social safety net, our education system and our voting rights are not in that building legally. Their very election was illegal.

When their candidate lost the governor’s office, they robbed the governor of many of his powers, including his power to appoint his own cabinet. They robbed the attorney general of his power to sue them over their illegal activities.

This is a coup and we the people are the only ones who can stop it. There are 32 of us who are not free to address our legislators where they do their work. We need others to go in and speak for us. We can’t let them silence us.

 

Negotiating our care in a broken system

Mission Health System, the largest hospital and the largest employer here in the Asheville region, has announced it may leave the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina network in October.

That has a lot of people in a panic, since Mission is our only option here and BCBS is pretty much the only insurer in the state — three-quarters of all people with health insurance here have it through them.

Leaving the network would mean closing the hospital. It couldn’t survive because it wouldn’t be able to collect the money it’s owed by patients whose insurance only covers half the cost of their bills.

On the other hand, this dramatic announcement allows Mission to tell the public how desperate things are becoming here.

Here’s why: Our state’s legislature has rejected the billions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government reimbursed hospitals and clinics for the money they spent caring for people who couldn’t pay. The ACA’s provision for expanding Medicaid was meant to replace this money, but the Supreme Court ruled that Medicaid expansion couldn’t be mandatory, so mostly Republican states, mostly in the South, decided to shoot themselves in the foot and not expand.

Now, we’re still paying our full share into the Medicaid expansion pot, but not a penny of that money is coming back into North Carolina. Instead, it’s going to states like Arizona that have expanded Medicaid, and North Carolina’s hospitals are losing billions of dollars a year.

What’s worse is that about five people in this state die every single day — up to 2,000 a year — from lack of access to care.

Instead of lobbying the legislature to expand Medicaid, BCBS is insisting this is not its problem, and Mission is left to try and survive by cutting services.

Already, several small hospitals in the state have either closed or been bought up by larger hospital systems like Mission that can weather the storm longer than they can.

But this can’t continue. Eventually, even the wealthiest people here won’t have access to services because they won’t be available.

I know this tactic of brinksmanship. I saw it as a reporter. I would get press releases from the hospital claiming the insurance company wanted to reduce rates to the point where the hospital wouldn’t be able to survive. On the other hand, I got press releases from the insurance companies saying the hospital was guilty of gross inefficiency.

Once the contracts were signed, usually within days of the deadline, everyone was buddy-buddy again.

One year, the CEO of BCBS came to Asheville for a Chamber of Commerce event and praised Mission as one of the most efficient hospitals in the nation. This was just four months after a press release with the same CEO saying Mission was one of the worst.

So, with press release in hand, I approached him after his speech and asked if he had any thoughts on Mission’s dramatic turnaround in just four months.

He had no comment.

This is a game — a dangerous game with human beings as pawns, but a game nevertheless.

The hospital needs higher reimbursements to cover the losses from the state legislature’s recalcitrant position. The insurance company can’t keep paying more without some serious rate hikes.

Everyone involved here is guilty of greed or of trying to make a political point at the expense of human life.

It is all deeply, deeply immoral, but I think people need to understand who’s at fault here and what could happen.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it’s better than what we had before. The rate of people with insurance are at an historic high in the country right now. If all the states expanded Medicaid, insured rates would be over 90 percent.

In states that have expanded Medicaid, insurance rates are rising far more slowly and health care expenses are leveling off. In states like this one, health care costs continue to spiral out of control and people continue to die.

So, who’s pro-life now?

 

The drama of negotiations

Mission Health System, the largest hospital and the largest employer here in the Asheville region, has announced it may leave the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina network in October.

That has a lot of people in a panic, since Mission is our only option here and BCBS is pretty much the only insurer in the state — three-quarters of all people with health insurance here have it through them.

Leaving the network would mean closing the hospital. It couldn’t survive because it wouldn’t be able to collect the money it’s owed by patients whose insurance only covers half the cost of their bills.

On the other hand, this dramatic announcement allows Mission to tell the public how desperate things are becoming here.

Here’s why: Our state’s legislature has rejected the billions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government reimbursed hospitals and clinics for the money they spent caring for people who couldn’t pay. The ACA’s provision for expanding Medicaid was meant to replace this money, but the Supreme Court ruled that Medicaid expansion couldn’t be mandatory, so mostly Republican states, mostly in the South, decided to shoot themselves in the foot and not expand.

Now, we’re still paying our full share into the Medicaid expansion pot, but not a penny of that money is coming back into North Carolina. Instead, it’s going to states like Arizona that have expanded Medicaid, and North Carolina’s hospitals are losing billions of dollars a year.

What’s worse is that about five people in this state die every single day — up to 2,000 a year — from lack of access to care.

Instead of lobbying the legislature to expand Medicaid, BCBS is insisting this is not its problem, and Mission is left to try and survive by cutting services.

Already, several small hospitals in the state have either closed or been bought up by larger hospital systems like Mission that can weather the storm longer than they can.

But this can’t continue. Eventually, even the wealthiest people here won’t have access to services because they won’t be available.

I know this tactic of brinksmanship. I saw it as a reporter. I would get press releases from the hospital claiming the insurance company wanted to reduce rates to the point where the hospital wouldn’t be able to survive. On the other hand, I got press releases from the insurance companies saying the hospital was guilty of gross inefficiency.

Once the contracts were signed, usually within days of the deadline, everyone was buddy-buddy again.

One year, the CEO of BCBS came to Asheville for a Chamber of Commerce event and praised Mission as one of the most efficient hospitals in the nation. This was just four months after a press release with the same CEO saying Mission was one of the worst.

So, with press release in hand, I approached him after his speech and asked if he had any thoughts on Mission’s dramatic turnaround in just four months.

He had no comment.

This is a game — a dangerous game with human beings as pawns, but a game nevertheless.

The hospital needs higher reimbursements to cover the losses from the state legislature’s recalcitrant position. The insurance company can’t keep paying more without some serious rate hikes.

Everyone involved here is guilty of greed or of trying to make a political point at the expense of human life.

It is all deeply, deeply immoral, but I think people need to understand who’s at fault here and what could happen.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it’s better than what we had before. The rate of people with insurance are at an historic high in the country right now. If all the states expanded Medicaid, insured rates would be over 90 percent.

In states that have expanded Medicaid, insurance rates are rising far more slowly and health care expenses are leveling off. In states like this one, health care costs continue to spiral out of control and people continue to die.

So, who’s pro-life now?

 

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